Andy Hibbs

MacBook 12" - any good?

Discussion created by Andy Hibbs on Jul 6, 2017
Latest reply on Jul 18, 2017 by Andy Hibbs

With a few spare minutes to hand, this may be of interest to anyone who, like me,  knows they should purchase a MacBook Pro 13" for portability, but goes weak at the knees when picking up the MacBook 12" in terms of size and weight.


After much agony and a long wait for the Kaby Lake versions, I finally took the plunge on the 2017 mid-range MacBook 12" i5-Y (note, not a full i5) as we do travel quite a bit and develop on planes, trains and in passenger seats in cars. I opted for the mid-range standard edition, as the risk was low, if it worked, then I could purchase the next release with more RAM or storage and move this one on, if it failed, then still move it on and purchase the MacBook Pro I know I should have bought in the first place, or just use it for traveling and wait for a new Mac Mini for the office. Most reviews I've read have been for the entry level M3 processor and, with all the best will in the world, I never thought one of these would be up to the job.


So is the mid-range model good enough for FileMaker development? I'm coming from a low benchmark. We don't normally need huge processing as virtually all our development is via cloud servers and Citrix or Microsoft RemoteApp servers streaming FileMaker Pro and Advanced, so all heavy processing is carried out within the IAAS infrastructure. Last year I'd extended the life on my 2009 MacBook Pro 17" (originally rescued from a client who'd spilt a very expensive bottle of Chardonnay over the keyboard many years ago) by the addition of a 1Tb SSD drive and my travel 2011 MacBook Air, with a 480Gb SSD drive. I have been running our company on 6 and 9 year old Macs.


All the MacBooks are hooked up to a 1080p or other external monitor when in the office and, while travelling, an iPad (4th gen) via Lightning cable and Duet. The decision to add a 10.5' iPad Pro to act as a second monitor while travelling was taken.


I've not had an opportunity to test fully on the road as yet, but initial office based tests are good. I purchased the Apple HDMI, USB-C, USB-A adapter and a new powered Anker USB 3.0 hub, to which I could attach a USB to Ethernet adapter. This has just been supplemented by the arrival of a Satechi HDMI, 3 x USB-A, USB-C, Ethernet, SD and Micros SD card hub for traveling - I'll soon be able to find out if this gets as hot as I've heard some hubs can. If all continues to go well, the 1Tb SSD comes out of the MacBook 17" and goes into an Anker USB 3.0 2.5" enclosure to allow me to travel with my (way too large) iTunes and Photos libraries.


If I were coming from, say a 3 year old MacBook Pro, I may not have been as pleased as I am, but this thing really has impressed me so far. It will run both the 1080p and the 10.5" iPad to provide 3 screens when in the office. Ironically, due to the size of the MacBook, I can drag it nearer to me and therefore the smaller screen is less of an issue to my ageing eyes.


Due to problems with Citrix Receiver for Mac and FileMaker 16 I've been working for the last 2 days testing Receiver on Windows 10 on Parallels, with Outlook, FileMaker Pro 16, Chrome, Skype, Excel, etc. running alongside and, whereas both the older machines just about ran Windows, this thing really does allow it to be used without any noticeable performance problems and I've been quite happy to continue my development in this manner without any productivity hit.


Ironically, the only thing I haven't had a chance to test as yet is sitting in a nice apartment somewhere with the MacBook and iPad only, or traveling with it on my lap. Therefore no comments on the keyboard or screen as yet, but these are areas much has been written about, mostly positively.


It is early days, but so far this little Mac has really impressed me and, subject to not finding the screen too small to work with (bearing in mind I've spent years using  the MacBook Air screen) I don't see me returning to anything bigger or heavier.


I have run FM Pro and Pro Advanced side by side locally for development work, with other apps. I haven't as yet carried out any web updating or Final Cut Pro editing. However, if it can run half a dozen apps and run Windows 10 smoothly in Parallels at the same time, I'm optimistic this won't be a problem.


I still haven't read a review that truly tests the MacBook. There are plenty of 'not powerful enough' comments on the M3 entry version and '1 USB-C port isn't enough'. I've always had to carry dongles with me, for HDMI, VGA, DVI, Thunderbolt to Ethernet, USB-A to Ethernet for the MacBook Air, so I can't believe a single multi-port hub will bother me too much. Even the Apple one would probably do while traveling, providing I use a bluetooth mouse. If I purchase another one in the future, it will be with more storage and the iTunes and Photos external storage will go.


So far so good and I have a grin on my face each time I throw my backpack over my shoulder, the weight difference between the MacBook Air and 4th generation iPad compared to the MacBook and 10.5" iPad Pro is amazing (and OneNote becomes much more use with the Apple Pencil). Performance, so far, has way exceeded my expectations. I've seen no evidence of processor throttling as yet (previous reviews of the older MacBooks highlighted that the M7 would throttle back more than the more energy efficient M5, but I don't believe these tests are available as yet for the I5-Y and I7-Y).


If my opinion changes with use, I'll update here. But for now I'm glad I made the decision I did. I hope this helps someone through the agonising I went through.